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s-oftanimal  asked:

Hey there, I'm thinking about doing the EPIK program this coming spring (damn paperwork! I wanted to leave in November...). How do you like it? Can you tell me about the kind of hours/benefits/training/etc. you've done? Thanks!

Hey!

You really should apply for the program if you can! The program certainly has its kinks that it needs to work out since it’s only a few years old, but overall it’s been phenomenal for me so far!

You meet a ton of amazing people at orientation, friends that you’ll bond with as you all forge through the first few weeks/months together, and the lectures were decent enough in terms of preliminary training. There’s really only so much they can teach you beforehand, and the rest is all on-the-job learning since each school is different and each person’s co-teachers will be different and have different personalities and interpersonal dynamics. Throughout the year, you’ll have workshops and stuff too (I have one coming up in two weeks, actually). Ideally, your co-teachers will help guide and train you as much as you need and/or seek out their guidance. It’s all about how well you establish your relationships and dynamics those first few days/weeks.

As for hours… Official hours at my school are from 8:30AM to 4:30PM, but I usually head home between 5PM and 6PM. Official classes end around 3PM for me, but on most days I have one or two after school classes. Factor in lesson planning and whatnot and I’m at work until 5PM or 6PM.

In regards to benefits, we have government health insurance, which I hear is pretty thorough. I’m only now starting to get sick for the first time, so I don’t have any personal experience with the medical system here in Korea, but several of my friends who HAVE been sick have told me that checkups/consults/medications are REALLY cheap here. The system’s different from back in the US, but still navigable. Hopefully I don’t get sicker (fingers crossed), but if I do, I guess I’ll post more about the health system afterwards, haha.

Other perks include free rent (your school gets about $700/month to spend on your rent). Utilities like electricity/water/internet/building maintenance may or may not be included in your rent, depending on the building – mine is not, so I pay about $130/month for utilities, not including a cell phone bill of roughly $70/month.

Food is really cheap and filling, especially if you get street food (it’s safe), so food costs for me were low for the first six weeks… until I started cooking and discovered Costco, haha.

I should probably put in a disclaimer here though, as I feel like I’ve simply been very very lucky with what I’ve been given in terms of school, co-teachers, and everything:

I work at a middle school in a really poor area (my school was recently ranked as the 2nd-lowest performing middle school in all of Seoul… =/). Middle school was actually my last choice, behind high school and elementary school, but I’m so glad to have gotten the school that I did, even if it is a middle school, and even if it is one of the lowest-performing schools. Why? Because I have a group of four AMAZING coteachers and a school whose administration has been extremely kind and accepting and willing to help me with any requests I might have, from furniture and other apartment-related stuff to vacation days to letting me run my classes as I see fit.

In the end, your experience depends on both luck and how you deal with the hand you’ve been dealt. My experience has greatly benefited from my way-too-overly-optimistic and way-too-overly-outgoing/friendly personality. Even if you have crappy conditions at first, I feel like as long as you establish great relationships with your co-teachers, your head teacher, and your administration (vice-principal and principal), then you’re good to go, because they will want to help you out whenever they can and whenever you ask for it. I’ve put in a lot of effort into getting off on the right foot here with the staff and administration at my school, and I’ve been treated very well in return. (I’ll talk more about that in a later post.)

Just remember the Golden Rule, keep an open mind, work hard, stay positive, and be friendly.

(Wow, sorry this turned out to be such a lengthy answer… >_<)